There isn’t much to differentiate one Hyundai from another – they’re good-looking, feature-rich, well priced and the diesels have the performance you want. They’re also not for the driving enthusiast, because Hyundai somehow has never managed to get its suspension settings just right for both the comfort-loving Indian as well as the enthusiast. No more, though. The Grand is all that a Hyundai has been, and then some. This is the first Hyundai that I’ve ever been genuinely excited about, and with good reason.
You don’t need to be told that the Grand i10 (just the “Grand” from now on) looks good. It has elements of both the i10 and i20, but at first glance it is more related to its bigger sibling. It is squat rather than a tallboy, and this bodes well not just for looks but ride and handling as well. At the front what makes it recognisably a Hyundai is the large hexagonal grille and swept-back headlamps that are very nicely wedge-shaped when viewed head-on. Move to the front three-quarter angle, and the swept-back headlamps take prominence. The fog lamp cutout in the bumper also looks a lot more cohesive from this angle. The sloping roof and faux roof rails all make an appearance. Move to the side, and the ‘diamond cut’ alloy wheels dominate. They genuinely look good, and different from different angles – a first in the segment. The strong shoulder line and sloping C pillar add sportiness to the design, but I’m not sure I like the large matt black plastic insert at the bottom of the doors. Especially in this shade of orange, it feels out of place – even though removing it will mean that the Grand will look ungainly and too tall from the side. The chrome door handles add a premium touch. This is also where the tail-lamps make an appearance. They are as swept forward as the headlamps are swept back.
The rear three-quarter angle reveals the full extent of the tail-lamps, which are quite a bit smaller than they appear from the side. It also reveals the proliferation of lines at the back – there are as many as six major horizontal lines running across the rear, and it looks unnecessarily busy. However, leaving it plain will mean the car’s front and rear would not be cohesive; plus, most customers will find the rear’s large amount of details appealing, so we’ll give Hyundai points for the rear. I especially like the clean tailgate, with the prominent logo that apes the i20’s hatch. The Grand, surprisingly, doesn’t look undertyred like a lot of the competition that uses a similar size and width of tyre.
The i10 had so much beige that driving in a wooded area was distracting thanks to the reflections from the beige-topped dashboard off the windshield. The i20, on the other hand, always appeared to be smaller than it really is because of the swathes of dark materials that were employed in the cabin. The Grand takes the middle road, and mixes beige and black for a practical, but also airy, cabin feel. There is real thought behind the choice of colours, too – it is the bits that require to be dark that are so, like the top of the dashboard, frequent touch points and cubby holes, because they will show smudges and dirt soon. The rest is beige, giving it visual space. The instrument and audio system lighting remains blue, a Hyundai trademark. Hyundai has chosen an asymmetric layout for the dials, with a dominant central speedo, a tachometer to the left and temperature and fuel gauges to the right. Again, here we see Hyundai take the middle ground: it hasn’t chosen digital indicators like a lot of new models, and neither has it sacrificed the temperature gauge for a simpler, cheaper high-temperature warning light. The digital trip computer at the bottom shows only the tripmeter and distance covered; a multifunction system like that of the Nissan Micra would have been far more welcome. The Grand does offer visual and audio seatbelt warnings.The Grand does not offer a climate control system, but the air-conditioning is very effective, as it showed us in Rajasthan’s heat with three people in the car. It uniquely for the segment offers a rear blower (a true blower, not a recirculating fan like the Nissan Sunny) and a chilled glovebox. The integrated audio system in the Grand has all the connectivity options possible, including iPod and Bluetooth connectivity and one can use the buttons to skip tracks, even via Bluetooth. However, if you’re one of those who uses an iPod with a million artists on it, be warned that going from a track or artist from one end of the alphabet to the other is going to take quite a bit of patience and knob-turning. Your drinks can go into the pockets in all four doors, and Hyundai has also thoughtfully given the Grand different-sized cupholders in the centre console. There are also seat-back pockets, if you wish to stow a laptop or a book.
Strangely enough, the Grand provides two adjustable headrests for the rear seat but integrated headrests for the front seats. This, along with the rear blower, second 12V power socket and the extra 100mm wheelbase over the European model, show a larger focus on the rear seat occupants. Speaking of which, kneeroom in the Grand is satisfactory, although three abreast in the rear will still be a squeeze. The wheelbase of the Grand is 2425mm, a mere 5mm shorter than the Maruti Swift. Boot space is rated at 256 litres – and the rear seats folds flat as well.
The Grand will be available with two engines, the familiar 1.2-litre VTVT petrol engine (generating 81PS and 114Nm) that is present in the i20 mated to a manual gearbox and a new three-cylinder 1.1-litre diesel that is new. The 1.2 petrol will also be available in a few months with an automatic gearbox. We know that the Indian market is watching for the new diesel for a number of reasons. The first being that it is assembled in Hyundai’s Chennai plant instead of being imported as a unit like the 1.4- and 1.6-litre engines. Not only does this mean less tax (and purchase price) for the vehicle, it also means that spares will be readily available and at reasonable cost.
The 1.1 CRDi is in principle the 1.4-litre four cylinder with one cylinder less. To counter the imbalance of a three-cylinder, Hyundai has chosen to use a counterbalancing shaft, which means refinement levels expected of a Hyundai common-rail diesel. Those of us who have been driving for many years will have a certain impression of a three-cylinder Hyundai diesel, but let me assure you, this one is nothing like that. It is quiet, refined and torquey. Hyundai has put in a lot of effort designing this engine, and as a result it has a few unique features like the turbocharger being an integrated unit of the exhaust manifold. This engine produces 70PS and 160Nm, and puts the power down to the front wheels via a five-speed manual gearbox. Torque peak is claimed at 1500rpm, which is one of the contributing factors for the 24kmpl ARAI fuel efficiency figure.
Unlike the i20’s laggy but powerful 1.4 diesel, the 1.1 U2 CRDi has no sudden surge in torque once the turbocharger begins to work. The gearing is quite tall for the displacement, and it hums along at 100kph at a little under 2500rpm with ease. Overtaking on the highway is a simple matter of prodding the throttle; the Grand surges from 100 to 120kmph with ease. The gearshift is positive and light – this is one of the engine/gearbox combinations that will not have you frustrated whether you’re driving in rush hour traffic or on your favourite highway run over the weekend.
This is the bit that Hyundai has generally not been on par with its competition. They’ve always offered cars that ride well, but offer unpredictable handling thanks to too-soft suspension and steering that is always too light to offer any worthwhile feel or feedback. The Grand uses the same suspension that is par for the class – McPherson struts in the front and a torsion beam rear, but I’m happy to say, it is a car that is equally at home crawling through our cities’ potholed roads as it is being thrown about a bumpy B-road at speed. The steering offers lots of feedback, is direct, and the Grand is a car that you can enjoy driving. It isn’t as soft as a Nissan Micra, nor is it set up as stiff as a Swift, but it has a happy compromise. This applies to the Grand at highway speed also – sudden changes of direction at triple-digit speeds on bumpy tarmac do not unsettle the Grand at all.